Profile: Rob Shimmin, Ogilvy PR: He’s got the whole world in his hands - Youth, ambition and drive - Rob Shimmin’s got it, and Ogilvy is exploiting it

Ten years ago Rob Shimmin was temping for a travel company as he worked out the best way to earn a living. Having left Leeds Metropolitan University with a degree in leisure studies, he travelled the world to gain some life experience. He is a rarity in the post-university travelling population in that having worked his way around the globe, he returned with twice as much money as he left with. His entrepreneurial flair had already revealed itself.

Ten years ago Rob Shimmin was temping for a travel company as he

worked out the best way to earn a living. Having left Leeds Metropolitan

University with a degree in leisure studies, he travelled the world to

gain some life experience. He is a rarity in the post-university

travelling population in that having worked his way around the globe, he

returned with twice as much money as he left with. His entrepreneurial

flair had already revealed itself.



The temping job - cataloguing 10,000 slides of holiday resorts - turned

into a PR role when the company’s management decided they could easily

train this eager staff member to do the job of the freelancer they were

then employing. After two weeks of training, Shimmin, aged 23, became PR

and promotions manager. It provided vital experience of managing budgets

and pursuing projects to conclusion. By the time Shimmin left - the firm

had been taken over by a large conglomerate which later went bust - he

was snapped up by Pippa Isbell for her travel PR agency PIPR.



Isbell, now PR director for the Orient Express, still remains in contact

with Shimmin five years after his two-year stint ended. ’Rob’s strength

is in building relationships, getting the client to stop and explain

their proposition. He’s also very interested in how business works,’ she

says.



Upon leaving PIPR, Shimmin moved to Brussels to take up an Ogilvy

vice-presidency. He has since prospered as the office’s managing

director for more than three years, presiding over an apparently

seamless success story.



When Shimmin arrived, the office employed ten staff with estimated fees

of pounds 700,000. When he leaves next month to return to London to

become global director of the company’s corporate practice, it will

employ almost 30 staff, earning fees in excess of pounds 2 million.



Shimmin’s rise to these giddy heights at the tender age of 33 has been

little short of meteoric. He is the first Ogilvy global practice leader

to be based outside the US, evidence of the agency’s commitment to Asian

and European expansion. He is also the youngest ever global practice

leader.



The man who first hired Shimmin for Ogilvy, current president of Asian

operations Matthew Anderson, says Shimmin’s youth will be more of an

asset than a liability. At last year’s Ogilvy get-together in Barcelona,

Shimmin co-ordinated a three-office music video spoof of We are the

World, called PR the World. It amused senior management, brought staff

from Dallas, Brussels and Beijing into close contact and cemented

Shimmin’s reputation as not only a smooth organiser but also a keen

motivational manager. Anderson says: ’Rob is someone keen to break the

mould. He won’t just try and replicate our existing success, but will

try to do things differently.’



There are doubts that Shimmin may not have the necessary gravitas for

such a senior management role. To report to the chairman and CEO of the

whole company surely requires a decorous and professional business

manner.



Shimmin’s predecessor as global corporate practice head, now New York

managing director Paul Hicks, dismisses this as no cause for

concern.



’I have lots of white hair and plenty of what is usually meant by

’gravitas’,’ he says, ’but clients don’t really mind about that.

Increasingly the client is results-driven, and Rob delivers.’



Shimmin’s plans for the global corporate practice - which counts among

its clients BP Amoco, Pfizer, Nokia and IBM - are two-fold. First, he

wants to expand the principle of cross-selling across more of the

WPP-owned agency’s sister companies, Ogilvy and Mather in advertising,

together with direct marketing and sales promotion concerns. He wants

Ogilvy to be able to take clients that come in for political advice in

the Brussels public affairs practice then sell them other services, each

able to add value to the bottom line.



Shimmin’s second challenge, is that ’there is a talent war on at the

moment. I look forward to employing some extraordinarily unorthodox

tactics to win that war,’ he says. He maintains that the basic skills of

a good PR person are not only to be found among other agencies, in-house

staff or journalists wishing to jump the fence. ’We want to look wider

and to hire, say, lawyers. I’m not about to start Ogilvy Legal Services,

but smart, young lawyers with the ability to juggle competing demands

can find PR every bit as rewarding and fulfilling as law,’ he

insists.



Shimmin retained a London home throughout his five-year tenure in

Brussels.



If he had sold in 1995, to buy back at a similar level in 2000 would be

impossible. This businesslike thinking - exhibited in building up

Brussels as a significant Ogilvy presence - should serve to overcome

fears about his relative youth and a total of just ten years’ PR

experience.





HIGHLIGHTS



1991



PR manager, Quest Travel





1995



Vice-president, then MD, Ogilvy, Brussels





2000



Global MD, Ogilvy’s corporate practice.



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